PRAGUE (Reuters) – The Czech government may have to tighten its anti-coronavirus measures further as numbers of new cases have not ebbed and the health system is getting close its capacity, Health Minister Roman Prymula said on Tuesday.
The Czech Republic has reported the highest numbers of infections in Europe in the past days relative to the population.
Active cases reached 105,541 in the nation of 10.7 million as of Monday and the number of patients currently hospitalised with the COVID-19 illness has more than tripled this month to 3,721.
Deaths have also soared to 1,513, an increase of 407 over the past week.
Hospitals have been cutting regular activities to make more beds and personnel available for the surging numbers of patients.
“I would very much plead for the already implemented measures to be respected, because we can see that they aren’t, which means that we will have to propose tougher measures at the government,” Prymula told parliament. “We don’t have much time.”
He was not specific but other ministers have in the past days suggested some version of a lockdown could be on the cards if the situation does not improve.
The government has called an extraordinary session on the situation for Wednesday morning.
Prymula said that the peak of the pressure on hospitals should come in early November.
He said that could mean a need of 9,000-11,000 regular beds with oxygen, and 1,500-3,000 beds at intensive-care units for COVID patients.
As of Tuesday, there were 7,670 vacant regular beds and 963 ICU beds in Czech hospitals, according to data collected by the state’s Institute of Health Information and Statistics (UZIS), but most of those were not in wards for coronavirus patients.
Prymula said the government was buying extra 500 lung ventilators used for the most serious cases and 1,200 machines for oxygen therapy given to less seriously ill patients.
The government has ordered bars and restaurants to close except for takeout orders, and schools have moved to distance learning. Sport and fitness clubs, theatres and cinemas had already shut, but shops have remained open.
People are obliged to wear face-masks inside public buildings and in public transport. From Wednesday, that will apply also to outside areas in populated places.
(Reporting by Robert Muller; Editing by Angus MacSwan)